How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program Near Rainsville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Rainsville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Rainsville residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Rainsville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Rainsville AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations in the field are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Rainsville AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Rainsville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Rainsville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Rainsville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Rainsville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Rainsville AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Rainsville AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Rainsville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Rainsville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Rainsville home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Rainsville Alabama.